How To Enable Photo Viewer on Windows Server 2016 or 2019

by Danny


I’m in the middle of migrating my Plex media server from my daily driver Windows 10 PC to Server 2019 Standard. I ran out of space (and hard drive bays) inside my desktop, so the time has come to migrate to a different OS. I purchased all the components with the intention of turning my server into a TrueNAS nas server, but after running TrueNAS for a week, I decided the time invested in learning/migrating to an unfamiliar operating system was more than I wanted to tackle at this point in time. I ultimately ended up purchasing a Fractal Design Node 804 case because of how many storage bays it has.

As a sysadmin, I’ve become really proficient with Windows operating systems, Powershell, Hyper-V, PFsense, etc, so I figured moving to a known OS would simplify things for me in the long run. However, I soon learned that there are a few things I wasn’t aware of on Server 2019. In particular, one of the things I learned was that the default “photo viewer” is set to Paint.

Fortunately, this was a quick fix. Follow the steps below if you’ve ran into the same issue.

If you’re curious about my server build, I am using

How to Enable Photo Viewer in Windows Server 2019

By default, Photo Viewer isn’t installed or active. The first thing we need to do is check whether or not the DLL’s exist on the server.

Step 1: Check if Photo Viewer DLL’s Exist

Browse to C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Photo Viewer on the server. If you see .dll files there, that means the files exist but aren’t registered. It should look like this:

If you don’t see those files, simply browse to the path above from a Windows 10 PC & copy the folder contents to the same path on your server.

Step 2: Register the DLL’s

Now that we know the necessary files are present, we need to register them.

Open Command Prompt (type CMD into Start) and right-click to Run as Administrator. Then copy and paste the following code:

regsvr32 “C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Photo Viewer\PhotoViewer.dll”

Step 3: Download PhotoViewer Registry Keys

Now that the .dll’s are registered, we need to import the registry keys. This allows us to “Open With…” from File Explorer and choose Windows Photo Viewer, as well as set default file associations for various file types, such as .jpg, .jpe, or .jpeg.

Download registry files from here: MS Photoviewer Registry

Once downloaded, right-click the .zip file and extract it to a temporary location.

Step 4: Import Registry Keys

From Start, open Regedit.

File > Import > browse to the location you extracted the 4 registry files. You will need to import all 4 of them.

You should now be able to right-click an image file and Open With Windows Photo Viewer!

Step 5: Set Photo Viewer as Default App

If you’d like to make Photo Viewer your default photo viewing application, search Windows for “Default Apps” and then change Photos to Windows Photo Viewer.

Step 6: Allow Images in Thumbnails

This step is optional, but if you’d like to see a preview of the images from File Explorer (instead of just icons), you can do that by changing the File Explorer options.

Search Windows for Folder Options. Change to the View tab and uncheck “Always show icons, never thumbnails”.

That will change it from looking like this:

to looking like this:

That’s all there is to it! Hopefully this guide helped you out.

My Homelab Equipment

Here is some of the gear I use in my Homelab. I highly recommend each of them.

The full list of server components I use can be found on my Equipment List page.


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shortski February 13, 2021 - 3:30 pm

A good solution if one doesn’t want to install additional photo viewer software, and clearly explained. Thanks!

Chandler Bing February 24, 2021 - 1:20 pm

Worked great. Thank you very much.

Danny February 24, 2021 - 7:19 pm

You’re welcome. Glad this guide helped!

Tony March 9, 2021 - 10:26 am

Wow. so simple but effective! I’d rather do this then install some random image viewer program or use paint.

Sam March 16, 2021 - 10:27 pm

Thanks, easy instructions. very helpful.

Danny March 18, 2021 - 3:54 pm

That’s great! I’m glad I could help.

John Chasty March 22, 2021 - 11:10 am

Thanks – great write-up!

Veit Stimpfl April 6, 2021 - 6:39 am

Thanks a lot!

b00d April 15, 2021 - 11:14 pm

Are any registry edits necessary for the other file extensions Windows Photo Viewer supports, like PNG, TIFF, etc?

John Babbitt June 14, 2021 - 10:34 pm

Unfortunately, it seems that Windows Photo Viewer has not been updated for some time. When trying to view newer photos, we’re now getting “out of resources” errors. It works on a lot of photos but not the newer ones, lately. I suspect there’s a significant change in the way new photos are stored and the outdated app can’t handle the new format. The app on Windows 10 isn’t the old Windows Photo Viewer app but rather the new Microsoft Photos app.

Heino June 15, 2021 - 6:06 am

Thank you, this tutorial worked perfectly on a 2019 Server!
Why would Microsoft disable the Photo Viewer per default? It’s the most lightweight solution if you want to view images and it’s a lot simpler to avoid accidentally drawing on an image.

Danny June 15, 2021 - 8:37 pm

Awesome, thanks for reporting that this still works! My guess is as good as yours, but I’m assuming most people don’t store photos on server 2019 so they didn’t want to continue adding that as a feature for server OS’s. Or if they do, they map a network drive and access the share from a Win10 PC.

Alfredo Gonzalez July 26, 2021 - 5:08 am

Awesome tutorial!!
Worked like a champ!

Danny July 26, 2021 - 5:28 am

You are very welcome!

tri July 29, 2021 - 8:28 am

Thank you very much

Danny July 30, 2021 - 1:26 am

Happy to help!

Afzaal July 30, 2021 - 9:11 pm

Thats really very helpful guide, thanks…!

Danny July 31, 2021 - 3:32 am

Absolutely, I’m glad it helped!

Sahar October 21, 2021 - 2:35 am

Helped me a lot!
Thank you!

prabha October 23, 2021 - 4:03 am

Thanks,It helped me a lot.Thanks for your support.

Kiran December 23, 2021 - 1:10 am

it worked great, thanks 🙂

Danny December 23, 2021 - 1:14 am

You’re welcome!

Glenn January 6, 2022 - 5:30 pm

Just FYI… it seems one of the registry files in the zip — MS PhotoViewer.bmp.reg — has the path for HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows Photo Viewer\Capabilities pointing to the 64-bit directory %ProgramFiles% rather than the 32-bit directory %ProgramFiles(x86)%.

Renato January 27, 2022 - 4:02 pm

Thank you very much. I´m using Windows server as my remote desktop and keep this feature enables is very important.

Rico February 7, 2022 - 10:03 am

Nice, but doesn’t work for newer photo attributes like ICC_PREVIEW_V4

alsayed April 9, 2022 - 5:04 pm

well done many thanks , it helped me a lot

Randy May 5, 2022 - 11:21 am

Danny – thanks for the Photo Viewer install instructions. I would like to implement server login notifications. But I don’t see any information on how to do it.

This is a handy, simple way to be notified whenever someone logs into a server. Personally I use it for auditing logins to our Veeam backup server and domain controllers. It could also be helpful if you hire a new IT employee and are starting to delegate more privileges and you want to make sure that new hire isn’t logging into servers they aren’t supposed to yet.

Jan-Geert Wesselink June 2, 2022 - 5:15 am

Works liek a charm. Photo vier and thumbnail issues resolved in one go. Thanks

Dafna July 28, 2022 - 10:27 am

Thank you so much! that was clear and easy!

Paul August 19, 2022 - 3:56 am

I would prefer to see the registry file content expanded , rather than having us download mystery zip files.. I’m sure you could put them in a collapsible block so they didn’t flood the page…

Richard October 28, 2022 - 5:18 am

Really help. Great stuff. Thanks!

Seyed Morteza November 1, 2022 - 12:57 am

Thank you very much

Bruce Banner November 12, 2022 - 3:06 am

Awesome tutorial, thank you!

michael December 16, 2022 - 11:32 am

Thank you very much !! Was stuck using XnView and that really sucked.. Plain ol’ Windows Image beats it hands down.

Danny December 16, 2022 - 12:36 pm

Agreed! Personally I’m a fan of ImageGlass:


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